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Dear Liz (and the rest of the class of 2010)

Dear Liz,

After four years of seemingly insurmountable volumes of reading, term papers and theses delivered through overnight marathons and lifelong friendships born as adolescents bloom into adulthood – it’s over.  You’re a college graduate.

You’re starting your post-college life in a new city, luckily with good friends and some family close by.  The world awaits you with – what???  Record levels of unemployment, wars raging in the Middle East, a rising federal debt burden you’ll have to pay and an oil spill of epic proportions in the Gulf.  It’s hard to get a job right now if you have years of experience.  As a new college graduate you’ll have to work extra hard to find full time, professional and paid employment.

What a fantastic time in your life!  (Hunnhh???)  That’s right.  You have so many choices in front of you.  New industries will bloom around the very problems that seem so intractable today – clean energy, improving healthcare, assisting an aging population, the list goes on.  Government and non-profit organizations need your talent and your passion more than ever.  Your international education has prepared you better than any generation before you to pursue opportunities across the globe.

But the first steps are yours to take.  You’ll have to pursue those opportunities, as the labor supply and demand dynamics are working against you right now.  For you, and your classmates, I offer a few hard earned coaching tips about looking for a job.

  1. Networking is grueling, but it will accelerate your success. Tell people what you’re looking for (industries, roles, target companies) and ask for their help with introductions to people who can help you connect to these targets.  Tap your alumni network, your parents’ friends, your professors, and the people you interned for (they owe you!).
  2. Job boards are just the tip of the iceberg. Job boards are a great way to find out what types of positions organizations are currently hiring.  They are principally designed, however, to screen out the majority of candidates who don’t appear to be a perfect match on paper.  Many positions are filled without ever being posted on a job board (see #1 above).
  3. Finding a job is a job. The more time you invest now in researching options, making networking calls, preparing for interviews, and following up after interviews with articulate WRITTEN thank you notes, the sooner you’ll find that job.  Keep a spreadsheet of the contacts you’re given, the actions you’ve taken with them, and the leads they’ve provided.
  4. Social media is changing the game – learn the rules. You know and love Facebook.  Your life is catalogued there for everybody with an internet connection to see.  Revisit those posts and pictures and clean up any content you wouldn’t show a recruiter or hiring manager.  They’ll find it if you don’t.  Get to know LinkedIn and Twitter.  Know that many companies are using these channels to advertise job openings.
  5. Leave everybody you talk to with the best possible impression of you – as a potential employee. You’re not trying to prove you’re a good kid.  You’re trying to help potential employers (or those who can lead you to them) envision you as an effective and dependable asset in the workplace.  Research the organizations and people you’re going to meet before you meet them.  Prepare insightful questions.  Dress and act the part.  Manners count.  Written (on paper, stamped, delivered by people with mailbags) thank you notes are still important.
  6. Think hard about how you want to spend your work life. Life is short and you’ll spend a lot of your waking hours at work.  All jobs are a mix of interesting and not-so-interesting bits.  When you are a serious candidate for a job, make sure that you assess that potential employer as a fit for you, just as they are assessing you.

Go for it, baby.

June Retail Labor Index

Here is the June release of the Kronos Retail Labor Index, submitted by Kelly Northrop of Kronos.  This data reflects similar trends seen in the May employment data released on Friday that indicates very modest gains in job creation beyond the temporary US census jobs.

The June release of the Kronos Retail Labor Index reveals that in May 2010, both applications and hirings decreased over April 2010.  Hirings decreased slightly more, bringing the Index down to 3.80% in May, from 4.10% in April.  This seasonally adjusted Index level means that for every 100 applications received, 3.8 hirings occurred.

Hirings in general are still up from 2009 levels, while application volumes are continuing to be quite volatile.  Hiring levels for May 2010 were up by 17% over May 2009.  Application volumes were down by 7.44% from May 2009.

Retail employee retention rates are still up year-over-year, but the rate of increase has slowed quite a bit in the past few months.  This indicates that greater numbers of the employed are successfully changing jobs.  However, other evidence presented in this month’s report indicates that the long-term unemployed are continuing to struggle.

A closer examination of long-term unemployment trends shows that 6.7 million people have been out of work for more than 26 weeks in the current recession, a 354% increase over October 2007 (economists’ consensus on when the recession began).  Robert Yerex, Chief Economist at Kronos, estimates the cumulative earnings losses from long-term unemployment to be $196 billion even at minimum wage rates.

Life Skills 101 from the Girl Scouts

In her Wall Street Journal blog (The Juggle) yesterday, Sue Shellenbarger questioned whether fundraisers like Girl Scout cookie sales are helpful developmental experiences for kids or just one more responsibility for working parents to shoulder.  The comments following this blog are running about 50/50 pro and con regarding fundraisers and whether they teach kids responsibility and job skills.  I blogged on a similar topic last summer when my son was selling Cutco knives, but have had the cookie experience as well.  I come down on the side that these experiences do teach kids valuable lessons about planning, teamwork, and having the courage to ask for the order.

I asked our board member, Ruth Bramson, to weigh in on this topic as well.  Ruth is CEO of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, and contributed the following guest blog in response to the WSJ post:

We are in the business of preparing girls to set out on their pathways to success in life and careers. Selling Girl Scout cookies is absolutely an important part of that preparation. By selling Girl Scout cookies, girls have chances to succeed and are challenged to stretch themselves to new heights. They develop the self-confidence, vision, wisdom, motivational impact and implementation skills that effective leaders use every day.

There’s no question that the Girl Scout cookie selling program can be a very effective life and career skill-building opportunity! These skills include:

Participating in the sale helps girls develop good communication skills to deliver a clear message while interacting with the consumer.

Goal setting helps girls decide what is important for them to achieve in their life. They learn to avoid distractions, stay motivated, and build self-confidence to improve their opportunities for success.

Managing their cookie sale offers excellent project management skills.  They tackle the challenges of coordinating people, schedules, and resources to complete multiple tasks in limited time.

Financial know-how is at the heart of true independence and self-reliance. The basic skills that girls gain through this experience stay with them for a lifetime. Learning to manage money wisely is one of the most important life skills girls can master. We help girls learn how to budget, manage cash flow and even pay bills on time!

Teamwork is the best way to get things done is often to work together to achieve more. Girls gain lots of practice working together toward their goals. All the while, they are improving problem solving abilities, communication and conflict resolution skills.

Networking is one of the most successful methods for gaining a desired position, whether it’s a slot on student government today, or a job later in life. Girls learn to develop contacts with people who might be able to help them with their future roles in life.

What’s your take on the life skills development value of fundraisers?